Herts Ad Comment: Is this the year Christmas market gets it right?

STOCK Generic office

STOCK Generic office - Credit: Archant

There’s an inaccurate perception within the corridors of St Albans district council that the Herts Ad has it in for the Christmas market.

In fact, we actually embrace the concept of a festive market in the city centre - it has the potential to be a go-to destination for visitors from within and beyond the district, heralding the start of the yuletide season in style.

Unfortunately, it’s the execution of the market which has let it down in the past. A lack of atmosphere, over-priced goods, prohibitively expensive rents detering local traders, early closing hours - there have been a plethora of complaints over the years, which may explain why the market has made a loss of nearly a quarter of a million pounds to date. To give SADC credit, they have acted on some of this criticism, with the market finally running up until December 23, but the biggest issue, that it usually closes at 6pm (apart from 8pm on Thursdays to coincide with late-night shopping) remains a bugbear.

Because of its out-of-the-way location, and conflicting events taking place at St Albans Cathedral, council bosses are reluctant to keep it running into the evening, despite people claiming that the whole experience of a Christmas market is to walk round it at night, complete with mulled wine and carol singers. The city’s huge community of commuters are therefore restricted in when they can visit, and you just can’t duplicate this magical feeling in broad daylight.

That said, there were still 118,000 visitors to the market last December - with 67 per cent of these from outside the district - so was it really such a disappointment?

It remains to be seen how this year’s event will perform over the coming weeks, and if past experience is anything to go by then our readers won’t be backwards in coming forwards when it comes to commenting in these pages.

We really hope that the 2017 Christmas market is a success, and that it finally breaks even after four years of losses. St Albans is the perfect location for a fun, vibrant and atmospheric market in the style of those we have seen in Europe, if only the powers-that-be can manage to bottle that continental magic and transport it across the Channel to our fair city.